Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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difference and the trouble it sometimes gave them in finding places to hang out. "I wasn't of legal drinking age, so a lot of the times the places we hung out were coffee shops," Jennifer chimes in. "That was another piece of it: You can meet anyone of any age in a coffee shop, and that was definitely a draw for us as well." At the time, however, Boston was—and, to be honest, to some degree remains—a little behind the specialty-coffee curve. Since George Howell's Coffee Connection, the historic city's early claim to coffee fame, closed in 1994, only a handful of "specialty" shops had dared go toe-to-toe with the local powerhouse of Dunkin' Donuts, also a Mass.-native company. The Liberty Cafe and the Phoenix in Cambridge's Central Square, the Someday Cafe in Davis (a few blocks from Diesel's eventual location), and Curious Liquids and the Other Side Cafe in Boston proper were some of the only classic all-day-and-late-night café hangouts, which left little for Jennifer and Tucker to draw on for inspiration. "I think that's an advantage we had," Jennifer says. "Twenty years ago there wasn't anything to compare to, so we had a lot of room for forgiveness." Armed with experience in retail, a longing for a welcoming and unifying community space, and a desire to offer great, simple, and yet-unexplored goods and services to a hungry (and thirsty) clientele, Jennifer and Tucker set out to design something that was more than what had come before, as well as more than the sum of its parts. From day one, Diesel was everything to everybody: fantastic coffee (the first Intelligentsia Coffee wholesale account in greater Boston), made-to-order sandwiches with on-brand names like the Monkey Wrench (roasted turkey, avo, cheese, tomato, greens, and sprouts on a baguette), and hands-down the chillest atmosphere in town. I should know: I spent as much time hanging out in Diesel as I did working at another—but not remotely as good—café in Back Bay in Boston during my college coffee life, and that might be the best compliment a barista can pay to a "compet- ing" shop. "The fact of the matter was that no one else was making fresh, made-to-order sandwiches, so there wasn't a lot of competition, and if you could make something basic and good, people were psyched about it," Tucker says. " Yeah," Jennifer adds. " We were just like, well, we'll figure it out." As it happened, as of opening day—nearly three years after they first scooped out those Diesel dreams at Herrell's—they had plenty figured out, and found themselves unexpectedly slammed from the moment the doors opened. "Part of our business plan was to do a worst-case-scenario baseline and also lay out our highest expectations," Tucker recalls. "On day one, we had doubled what our highest expectations were. I remember my mom and dad and Jen's parents were there on open- ing day, and we kept sending them up the street to get more sliced turkey, and oh, now we're out of bread, and we need more cheese. By the time we hit out-of-coffee at 3 o'clock in the afternoon we were like, 'All right, we gotta shut this down.' It was awesome but totally a surprise, the best surprise ever." That kind of immediate success didn't just happen, though: Tucker and Jennifer (and a third partner with whom they origi- nally opened) dug in and dug deep, handling everything from the planning to the finances to the build-out to working shifts—and 72 barista magazine

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